Better safety for back to school

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MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — If there’s anything I’ve learned as a new mom it’s that if you have kids, you can say goodbye to being on schedule for anything, ever again. My mornings are anything but smooth sailing, but I’ve gotten it down to a science to be at work on time. The only thing that can stop me… those bright yellow school buses.

I used to become angry whenever I got stuck behind a school bus on a morning that I was already running late. I’d yell, I would drive closer than I should, and I would always try to get around them whenever they weren’t stopped and I could legally pass.

One thing changed my perspective.

As I stood at a standstill behind the fluorescent red brake lights of a bus that seemed to stop at every house on my street, I took the time to look in the rearview mirror. Staring back at me was my son with a cheesy, toothless grin on his face. It hit me, in just a few short years, that is going to be my son riding on that bus. That will be me waiting with my little boy as impatient drivers like me go speeding around his ride to school.

That school bus is considered the safest option available to take my child to and from school, even safer than me driving him myself. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, four to six children die each year due to a school bus related accident.

In fact, just this past school year one of our local county schools suffered a fatality from a school bus accident. An innocent child’s life was taken because someone failed to pay attention.

A statistic of four to six children may not seem like a lot out of the millions that ride a school bus every year, but those six students could be your child, or my child, and I’m not willing to gamble with my son’s life.

With local schools starting up next week, it is important for parents and drivers to plan ahead and be cautious.

Parents, while the school bus is a safe option for your children, they also need to do their part to stay alert and aware of their surroundings. It is your role to teach them how to be safe.

If possible, try to make time in your schedule to walk your child to the bus stop and wait with them. Teach them to stand several feet from the curb or street and wait until the bus comes to a stop to start boarding one at a time.

Many modern school buses come equipped with lap or seat belts which your children should be instructed to utilize at all times while seated on the bus.

When exiting, if your child must cross the street, they should take at least five steps in front of the bus and make eye contact with the bus driver, waiting for a signal that it is okay to cross.

Drivers, know the rules of the road and pay close attention when children could be going to or home from school.

Drivers should always obey the speed limit and slow down in school zones and near bus stops.

Stay alert for kids trying to get to or from the school bus, standing by a bus stop, walking or riding to or from school.

If a school bus has yellow flashing lights, slow down, that means they are preparing to come to a stop. If the bus is flashing red lights, they are already stopped and children may be crossing the street. Do not ever attempt to pass a school bus that is coming to or already stopped and does not proceed to drive until the bus turns off its flashing lights.

As this next school year begins, I challenge you to think about your surroundings and adjust your driving habits accordingly. Leave for work early if you know you’re going to be in traffic. Think about the children that are riding in that bus.

There isn’t any child’s life that is worth the five minutes you might lose from being stuck behind a school bus in the morning. They’re worth more than the cup of coffee you might not have time for on your way or the paperwork you might get because you didn’t plan for traffic and got to work late.

I fight a battle almost every day to get out of the house on time, but regardless of how many obstacles pop up, I will always strive to be on the road early to allow time for school traffic. Now, as I wait behind the bus stopping at each house, I will spend that time thinking about all the children on that bus that used to be just like the toothless smile in my rearview mirror.